Lincoln entered Friday night’s game against Bethel as the state’s third-ranked team in Class 3A, with Bethel entering the game at No. 4 in this week’s Associated Press football poll.
It was everything fans could have wanted in the 3A Pierce County League championship game, with both teams coming into the game with undefeated records and ranked in the top five in the state.
Both teams exchanged blows all game, but eventually, Lincoln’s balance proved too much for Bethel to overcome. Here are five takeaways from that game and the rest of week nine high school football action in the South Sound.
LINCOLN BACK ON TOP OF 3A PCL
A year after conceding the league title to Lakes, Lincoln (7-2 overall, 7-0 PCL 3A) is once again the league champion after Friday night’s win over Bethel (6-3, 6-1), with both teams coming into the game with undefeated records in league play.
“It was tough for us last year, not getting to the league championship,” said Lincoln coach Masaki Matsumoto. “Our kids did a great job of getting it back. We coach them up, but they’re the ones out here doing everything.”
Settling for runner-up last season didn’t sit well with the Abes.
“We felt like we got it taken away from us,” said Lincoln running back Abner Sio-Fetaui. “So we came out today and we wanted to take it back. We did that.”
Lincoln and Bethel exchanged blows in the first quarter, going into the second quarter tied 14-14. But then Lincoln put its foot on the gas in the second quarter, scoring on a Caden Filer 23-yard pass to Jasiah Snow-Marshall and a Julien Simon 1-yard run out of the Wildcat formation to take a 28-14 lead into the half.
But Bethel fought back in the fourth quarter after a sloppy, scoreless third quarter for both teams, when Braves’ quarterback Kekoa Visperas hit a wide-open Cameron Parker for a 78-yard score to pull Bethel within a touchdown.
Then Lincoln rattled off a nine-play, 65-yard scoring drive — capped off by a Sio-Fetaui 12-yard score — to seal the 35-21 win.
“Last year, we came into the championship thinking it was a given that we were going to get it and we got that taken away from us,” said Lincoln receiver Jasiah Snow-Marshall. “We just knew we wanted it back. We knew coming into this game we were going to do whatever it takes to get it back.”
LINCOLN’S BALANCE MAKES ABES A TITLE CONTENDER
For the second consecutive week, Lincoln had a big night running the football, featuring senior running back Abner Sio-Fetaui prominently in the ground game.
He carried the ball 19 times for 166 yards and the game-sealing touchdown in the win. In the past two weeks, Sio-Fetaui has come into his own and has been featured more often in the offense. Matsumoto said his blend of speed and power makes him a difficult player to slow down.
“He’s one of the best running backs in the state,” Matsumoto said. “He’s proving it. … He has the vision, cuts well. The thing with him, he’s super quick but he’s also powerful. He works hard in the weight room. He’s going to be a tough guy to stop in the playoffs.”
It’s safe to say Sio-Fetaui doesn’t mind the increased workload in the offense as of late.
“If my team wants to use me, I’m down,” he said. “I’m willing to do anything for my team.”
On the outside, Lincoln’s receivers had a big night, led by Jaylen Clark, who caught four passes for 105 yards and a touchdown, and Jasiah Snow-Marshall, who turned in a clutch performance with four catches 76 yards and two touchdowns.
“A lot of film, a lot of studying, a lot of practice,” Snow-Marshall said of his big night. “We just knew they were going to go Cover 1. It was a big game for the outside receivers. We knew we had the guys to win 1-on-1 matchups.”
Matsumoto said Snow-Marshall has been a playmaker all season for the Abes.
“We thought he would have a big game tonight,” Matsumoto said. “We thought he would have some matchups that would be favorable. He runs great routes. We have good receivers, but he probably has the best hands.”
Lincoln can win running the ball exclusively all game, which it showed in last week’s win against Lakes, throwing the ball most of the time, which it’s done plenty over the past few years, or as Friday night’s win over Bethel showed, with a steady balance of both.
Lincoln ran the ball 29 times on Friday for 196 yards and two touchdowns and Filer completed 14-of-21 passes for 249 yards and three touchdowns in the win.
“When other teams game plan, it’s really like: Pick your poison,” Clark said. “We’re deadly both running and passing. If we’re going to have to run the ball hard 50 times and only throw the ball four times, then that’s what we’re going to do. A win is a win. That’s the mindset that we have.”
And that mindset shows maturity in this year’s squad, with players seemingly less concerned about individual statistics and accolades than they maybe were in the past.
“I’m 100 percent more confident (in this year’s team),” Clark said. “I feel like it’s more of a team feel this year. More of the wins we’ve been having are more team wins.”
No. 4 GRAHAM-KAPOWSIN COMPLETES UNDEFEATED REGULAR SEASON WITH WIN OVER SUMNER
The fourth-ranked Eagles had already wrapped up the No. 1 seed heading into next week’s Class 4A district playoffs, but Graham-Kapowsin made sure to put an exclamation point on this year’s dominant 4A SPSL title run by topping league rival Sumner 28-14 at Art Crate Field on Thursday night.
With the win, Graham-Kapowsin (9-0) remains one of four undefeated programs left in the state’s top classifications. The Spartans (5-4) are also headed to the playoffs as the league’s No. 4 seed.
Graham-Kapowsin’s stellar defense was once again on display on Thursday night. Through nine games, the Eagles have only allowed six touchdowns.
“Our whole defense gets it done,” senior defensive lineman Nico Golla said.
Sumner finished with just 135 yards of total offense on 38 plays against the Eagles. Through nine games, Graham-Kapowsin is allowing 7.2 points per game as a team, which is also a classification-best average.
“I think we’re doing good,” Golla said. “We’ve just got to get better every week. We haven’t had a (competitive) game like this in a while. … We’re getting better from this for sure.”
PENINSULA GOES THROUGH 3A SSC UNSCATHED
The Seahawks completed an undefeated mark in league play in the 3A South Sound Conference this season, beating Capital 49-7 at Ingersoll Stadium on Thursday night, one week after securing the league title with a win over Yelm.
Quarterback Peyton Bice completed 14-of-23 passes for 153 yards, a touchdown and an interception. Running back Sean Skladany continued his big season, rushing 12 times for 95 yards and four touchdowns in the win. Ethan Hogan rushed nine times for 95 yards and a pair of touchdowns and Landon Sims rushed six times for 54 yards for the Seahawks.
Peninsula will host Arlington in the first round of the playoffs in a loser-out game at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 8 at Roy Anderson Field.
Week nine marked the conclusion of the regular season, with playoffs beginning this week. Several local teams will begin their postseason runs in hopes of making a run to the state championship game, including No. 4 Graham-Kapowsin and No. 5 Puyallup in Class 4A, No. 3 Lincoln, No. 4 Bethel, No. 9 Lakes and 3A SSC champion Peninsula in 3A, No. 1 Tumwater and No. 3 Steilacoom in 2A and No. 8 Cascade Christian in 1A.
Check thenewstribune.com for a full list of playoff games, times and locations early in the week.
Staff reporter Lauren Smith contributed to this story.